My mother didn’t instruct me for all intents in bathroom manners, but mentioned that public toilet seats could be dirty, which led me through my younger years to levitate my tush off that seat even at home. My leg strength forever benefited, beyond what bicycling promoted. This colloquial didacticism contributed to my hygienic wardrobe – I held my buttocks above the public seat before paper covers were available or men learned to blinder their bratwursts. I include this triviality to illustrate the illogic of the question posed at the start: why do men flush before they pee? Is it some original sin of bathroom stall behavior? Not knowing who has previously occupied the toilet throne, is flushing merely preventive maintenance, like wiping a crystal goblet that has sat on the shelf too long? Demanding an opinion from my brother, he grew curious in turn, having noticed this manly behavior without questioning it. Is there more than cleanliness involved?
Too many times have I noticed men enter a stall in a public place and immediately flush the toilet, before using it. I have seen men flush a urinal as well, ignoring its cleanliness. Seldom have I walked into a bathroom stall and found anything disgusting, except an occasional clog, or a pee-splattered floor, so an immediate flush isn’t likely in order. Yet men do this. More men may do this at sporting events than symphony concerts, but I think that results from the stadium numbers, due to spectators imbibing beer through innings and quarters. I do recall my first major league baseball game at Wrigley Field, when Gordy and Pam insisted I drink a beer an inning. I only relieved myself at the finish, watching dozens of men file in and out of urinals facing each other – I don’t recall if anyone flushed first at that time. The intensity of my concentration led to a preview of later purges related to colonoscopies.
If it’s not a sign of antiseptic sanitation, is flushing a way to force urination? I have a friend who long ago insisted that he could not pee in a urinal, alongside other swords; he needed the privacy of a stall to ration a piss. I thought this unique, but as I’ve grown older and more restricted, I note that privacy in peeing can be helpful, if only because you are otherwise standing solitaire trying to pee in a urinal while others are holding their own behind you. The situation can unnerve a prostate preemie and restrict the flow. The sound of flushing can instigate the like pretense in older pissers, so do men flush to catalyze the action?
Do men first flush to mask the sound of their own lazy waterfall? Do they flush to mitigate the snorting that sounds of cocaine sniffing? Do they flush to muzzle the fart before they let loose? With water shortages affecting the arid West, new agers lived by the motto, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” Some cities now demand low flush toilets in new construction, including dual flush options, which use less water “if it’s yellow.” The waste lines in older houses may need more water to flush the drains, so we’re stuck between conserving water and cleansing waste. Do men flush before peeing for all the wrong reasons?
I was persuaded to write about this after seeing photos of stainless steel urinal hardware by Jim Milmoe during the Month of Photography. With more bathrooms being privatized to protect a person’s gender, men are less likely to pee in public, and the urinal trough is disappearing. Patsy’s Inn on Navajo in North Denver always featured ice in its urinal, which seemed to allay men’s fears of pissing without flushing, opting to watch the glacier melt instead. Patsy’s recently closed; I’m not sure that Vespa will carry on the tradition. The other historic place to pee in Denver is the Oxford Hotel, where a white tiled floor with patterns of color front two stand up urinals that have seen a century of tinklers. No need to flush first – the four-foot porcelain grand stands beckon the pee right out of visitors.
I hope I would make Michel de Montaigne proud, since I’ve come to no definite conclusion as to why men flush before they pee – just ideas rolling round my noggin while I pee in public avoiding others stares. Piss a beer on me at your next concert – I don’t mean that literally. Flush to finish, and if you’re an employee, wash your hands.